Guinness has had a good run (since 1769), but the dark, creamy stout's reign can't last forever. This St. Patrick's Day, skip the Irish standby in lieu of these five dark-horse contenders.
Left Hand Brewing Company: Milk Stout Nitro (Colorado, USA)
A key reason for Guinness' enduring success is the creaminess that comes with nitrogen gas. It creates smaller bubbles than carbon dioxide does, creating the trademark head. Now Colorado's Left Hand has bottled its subtly sweet Milk Stout (made with a measure of the dairy sugar lactose) under pressure with nitrogen. The indulgent beer has a head like mocha mousse and a luscious mouthfeel with flavors of milk chocolate and a full-fat latté.
Bar Harbor Brewing Company: Cadillac Mountain Stout (Maine, USA)
In recent years, the Maine brewery has expanded distribution for its rich flagship stout, which is regularly rated one of the best in America; one taste and you'll understand the accolades. Cadillac Mountain drinks smooth and velvety, like a cup of cocoa made with half-and-half. A touch of coffeelike bitterness and caramel keeps each sip interesting.
Brooklyn Brewery: Dry Irish Stout (Brooklyn, USA)
This year marks the first time the long-running Brooklyn outfit has bottled this gently carbonated, unfiltered Irish stout. It's packed with flavors of java and chocolate, which are matched by earthy East Kent Golding hops (from England) and a lustrous head, and at just 4.7 percent ABV, Dry Irish Stout can be an all-day drinker.
Starr Hill: Dark Starr Stout (Virginia, USA)
A southeast favorite for more than a decade, this Virginia brewery crafts a velvety Irish stout with hints of pumpernickel bread. The key to the inky elixir's lively, robust profile lies in the blend of roasted barley and caramel and chocolate malts, which provide lovely touches of light-roast coffee and bittersweet chocolate, while wheat adds an appealing smoothness.
The Porterhouse Brewing Company: Wrasslers XXXX Stout (Dublin, Ireland)
Yes, you can still get a great stout in Ireland—even if it's not from Guinness. One of the Emerald Isle's finest craft breweries is Porterhouse, which has a deft hand with hoppy pale ales, lagers, and stouts like the roasty Wrasslers. The dry, balanced obsidian jewel has an assertive bitterness that's complemented by flavors of ground espresso and baker's chocolate.
—Joshua M. Bernstein (@JoshMBernstein) is a Brooklyn-based journalist and the author of Brewed Awakening: Behind the Beers and Brewers Leading the World's Craft Brewing Revolution.
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